Erik Larsen on Savage Dragon #256 and the Return(ish) of one of Dragon’s Most Dangerous Villains

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Mako, one of the most dangerous villains in Savage Dragon history, got an upgrade in today’s Savage Dragon #256. The character, who was killed in Savage Dragon #191, was implied by the cover on the issue to have returned from the dead…but that wasn’t exactly the case. Instead, an obscure member of the Vicious Circle injected himself with Mako blood in order to regain powers following the mass-depowering that happened when the government rained Freak-Out down on the attacking Vicious Circle members last year. The character of Mako, who first appeared in Larsen’s pre-Image Dragon comics, has been a constant presence in the title.

Even after Mako was killed by Dart, Dart herself was part of the book, and was able to switch back and forth between human form and Mako’s look and powers. With the unexpected death of Dart last issue, a new Mako is likely a welcome development for most fans.

Larsen joined ComicBook to discuss the issue, what’s next, and how he planned the bloody return of a fan-favorite villain.

Did you always have a plan in mind for bringing back Mako, or was this kind of like the Paul Dragon thing where it came up as you went?

I knew a proper Mako revival was not an option. He’s run his course as a character and his story had a beginning, middle and end. But I did want to bring in a version of Mako, largely because of King Shark has started appearing in things. It frosted my flakes a bit to see that Mako knockoff showing up as if he was some original, groundbreaking creation, and so I decided that Mako had to return in some fashion.

I kicked around numerous ways of bringing him back without actually bringing him back and I considered quite a few ways to do that but this struck me as the cleanest way of doing that. Having some previously unmentioned son show up out of the blue seemed dishonest and nobody loves a clone.

A blood injection was the best option, I thought, and that gave me the best of both worlds, because he could be both old and new. He looked like a younger, leaner version of the old Mako and yet he could have a completely different personality and we’d be in on his first adventures and see those tentative first steps.

Given the “Savage Dragon is a porn comic” jokes in the issue, is it safe to assume that the panties-free shot on the last page was a callback?

I don’t know about that. It’s more a reminder that I can do whatever I feel like doing. I follow my own muse. I felt like addressing it and to say to the online trolls that I heard you — but your criticism won’t change me — I’m the guy in charge of this circus.

Is there a little Cletus Kasady callback in the idea of taking this incredibly dangerous villain and giving his powers to a total nut-job?

I hadn’t thought of that. Thinking about it now, I see Cletus Kasady as more of a spinoff than a continuation. This new Mako is a successor of sorts. With Cletus Kasady the older Venom model continued and Cletus was an expansion of the Venom line–this new Mako isn’t that. He’s the only Mako.

At the start of the issue, Malcolm still seems like he’s not fully at ease with Paul yet. Is that something that’s going to take some time, or did his putting himself on the line and almost dying this issue present a wake up call?

Malcolm misses his father, and his father died saving the world, so his passing is very powerful and significant — he’d made this noble sacrifice and paid the ultimate price. So while Paul looks like Malcolm’s father, and sounds like Malcolm’s father, and acts like Malcolm’s father — he isn’t Malcolm’s father, and it just feels wrong to have this stranger inserting himself into his life as if he was his father. At the same time, Paul is making an effort to make friends here. He has no home and he’s trying hard to find his place in this world. He’s trying to make the most of it and cling to things which feel familiar to him.

I’m assuming the Punisher t-shirt was commentary even before EVERYONE was making commentary on it?

I was referencing a panel from Savage Dragon #200 and nothing more. There’s no more significance than that. I was trying to tie the two events together. That panel is referencing a spread toward the end of my story in #200.

Obviously Dragon lost a limb very early in the series, and was surprised to learn that it grew back. I expect Paul wouldn’t be so lucky. Was that intentional mirroring, or just a case of doing 250+ issues and sooner or later ideas get repeated and tweaked?

I’m really going by my old unpublished fan-drawn comics here and my memory of them. I didn’t give Dragon a “healing factor” (for lack of a better term) back in the day and I’m trying to stay somewhat true to those stories. The Dragon would also have these moments of extreme rage where his eyes would go completely white. I haven’t brought that bit back into the narrative but I do keep it in mind.

In my old comics when the wizard Fon~Ti split William Jonson and Paul Dragon into two individuals, he left part of his powers with William, so that he could still turn into a version of the Dragon. In any case, I am trying to keep as many divergent points as possible intact so that Paul Dragon doesn’t just seem like Malcolm’s dad brought back from the dead. There’s still an unanswered question here as to if Malcolm’s blood would have worked to heal Paul Dragon, but that’ll have to be a question for another day.

Since the new Mako isn’t just crazy, but he’s also got a mean on more for the Vicious Circle than even for Malcolm, does that make him a wild card? Or do you think he’ll find an affiliation quickly?

I’m kind of letting this play out and seeing where it does. With some characters I definitely do have longterm plans but at this point I’m not thinking too far ahead with Mako. It could go any number of places.

Does a character as powerful and unstable as Mako make it more difficult for Malcolm and Maxine to decide to uproot and go back to Chicago?

Honestly I think America being America is the bigger factor. Covid-19 is running rampant in the US and we’ve done a piss poor job of stemming it. Meanwhile, Malcolm and Maxine have kids in school and free healthcare up in Canada, plus Maxine’s mother has relocated there, so there’s no hurry to head back any time soon. There’s no guarantee that the couple will ever head back to the States.

Obviously the book has become a time capsule with COVID and the election and everything. I know you like using Christmas issues as a way of marking the passage of time, but was that particularly impactful this year?

Well my own Christmas was pretty quiet. My oldest son stayed in Portland, and my youngest was home, so it was just me, my wife and youngest son. We did get a tree but that was about the extent of the festivities. We put up a tree and cooked a turkey. That was our Christmas.

Theirs was jollier than mine was, even with a furious brawl in the snow. If anything, this was a way to live vicariously through my characters for a few pages and enjoy the holiday in a way that I was incapable of doing. It did seem a bit odd to have a Christmas issue after Christmas but with the real time aspect of the book it seemed weird to predict the future and have a Christmas story come out prior to the holiday. It’s been particularly trying setting stories during the pandemic because of masks. I’d prefer to draw people’s faces but we just can’t get our act together as a country to mask up and social distance for a couple months and lick this thing — so here we are. And I’m stuck drawing most characters masked when they’re outside, which is kind of a drag. Hopefully 2021 puts an end to all that.

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